WHILE he won’t be climbing The Everest this weekend, Rod Northam is hoping to scale new heights in the $1.3 million Kosciuszko at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The Scone trainer and his $9 hopeful, After All That, will tackle the inaugural 1200m sprint in a curtain-raiser to the prestigious $13 million race, which has captured the nation’s interest.
The seven-year-old also faces another local galloper, Brett Cavanough’s The Monstar, as well as Melanie O'Gorman’s Suncraze, in the quest for glory.
It’s an amazing effort by Northam to even have After All That racing, let alone lining up in The Kosciuszko.
The talented bay gelding didn’t hit the tracks until he was four, after fracturing his pelvis twice.
“It happened as a two-year-old and, again, as a three-year-old,” the mentor said.
“And, in two different spots, mind you.
“It’s how he obtained the name – he finally got to race After All That.
“He won his first start by five lengths; and he’s gone on from there.
“From 28 runs, he’s picked up six victories and as many seconds for more than $400,000 in prizemoney.”
Ironically, After All That triumphed in the Anniversary Highway Handicap – a $200,000 race – at the same venue, on The Everest program, in 2017.
Northam admits he would love to experience that winning feeling again.
“That was a great day,” he said.
“Robert Thompson rode him in the Where there’s a Will colours, which meant a lot to the people of Scone.
“He’s saddling up on Saturday, too.
“In fact, Robert’s one of the few country jockeys contesting the race.
“He’s ridden After All That most of the time – and knows the horse really well.
“Robert and Blake Shinn are the only hoops to have won on him.
“Whatever barrier After All That draws will probably dictate his ride.
“However, I’m not expecting Robert to lead.”
It is great recognition for the Scone Race Club’s training facilities as well.Rod Northam
Northam said it was a major coup for the Upper Hunter to boast two trainers in such a significant race.
“We are in the horse capital of Australia after all,” he added with a grin.
“But, it is great recognition for the Scone Race Club’s training facilities as well.
“For me personally, it’s brilliant to be in the first-ever Kosciuszko.
“It is a terrific idea/concept.
“It’s something all trainers can aim for every year, too.
“I can’t praise Racing NSW’s chief executive Peter V’landys enough.
“Although, I believe, there were a few hiccups with ticketing [for The Kosciuszko].
“Once that’s been fine-tuned, it will be great.
“And, hopefully, we’ll have additional races like this in the future.
“It also opens the door for more people to get involved in the sport.
“The syndicate behind our slot – a group of guys from Maroubra and Grafton – is over the moon.
“They approached me; and negotiations went from there.
“Now that they’ve experienced a taste [of it], they want to invest in another horse.
“So, if we win the $685,000 race, it will be a great little earner [for them] with their $5 ticket.
“It’ll also be my biggest conquest.”
Despite Care To Think, Victorem and The Monstar being the immediate dangers on Saturday, Northam is quietly confident of causing an upset on the national stage.
“After All That is travelling very well at the moment,” he said.
“I was impressed by his effort in the Group 2 The Shorts at Royal Randwick on September 15.
“Even though he finished fourth, he came home strongly – and beat English and The Monstar, who were in the field.
“If he can reproduce that run in The Shorts, he’ll be right in the finish.
“Realistically, he’s a great chance.”